(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = OK, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
TIFF 2015 has come and gone, and with it my very first festival experience. Unfortunately, that experience involved The Treasure, possibly the most monotonous film I have seen in my young movie-viewing career.
From the award winning mind of Corneliu Porumboiu comes a (unsuccessful) parable reflecting modern economic issues and the never-ending obsession with taking the easy way out. Costi lives a quiet life with his wife and son. One day while reading his son Robin Hood his neighbour pays him an unexpected visit. Adrian (the neighbor) has heard rumor that his late great grandfather buried pre-communist era treasure in the back yard of his family home. Offering to split the potential profit if Costi puts up the money for a metal detector, the family man quickly jumps on the opportunity to dig himself out of the financial crisis he finds himself in. They pair, followed by a slow-minded technician, venture out to the country home and begin their search for the treasure.
The premise is sound, rife with the potential for both drama and humor. Instead, Porumboiu churns out one of, if not the, most generic films in recent history. The opening scene implies a strong thematic core, take from the rich and pay it forward to the needy (classic Robin Hood). The movie soon forgets this message in favor of watching 3 men walk around a bland back yard and dig a hole. Dialogue is kept to a minimum and laughs are seldom found.
The economic crisis the two men find themselves in is left unexplained, leaving audiences with a vague, “I have no money”. With little to go on in terms of background, it is up to the script and director to make us fall in love with the characters. Once again, there is nothing here. Costi and Adrian go back and forth asking each other generic questions about their family histories and how each of them are feeling about the “adventure” at any given time. It all makes for a boring film with very little hook aside from finding out what the treasure actually is.
When the grumpy technician joins Costi and Adrian at the house things get a tiny bit more interesting for a minute or so but soon devolve into the monotone back and forth that plagued the first 40 minutes of the feature. For a movie labeled as a comedy jokes are rarely even attempted. The funniest moment comes early on when Costi pretends to have an affair with his co-worker in order to get out of work for the day. It doesn’t lead to anything and was completely superfluous but it was the best moment of the movie (which goes to show you how little else happened throughout the hour and a half of sitting there).
Looking past the dismal script and barely present acting, let’s talk conflict. There isn’t one. The trio move from one set to the next with nothing going on to keep audiences invested. The band of would be treasure hunters literally walk back and forth with a metal detector for 20 minutes… If this was an attempt at some sort of reverse absurdist humor, it didn’t work.
When Costi and Adrian finally stumble across the titular treasure the film comes to a swift end (one of the more positive aspects of the film). Both men walk away with over a million euros but as a last minute bit of advice, Adrian tells Costi to play dumb if someone were to question him about the cash… because the treasure kind of sort of belonged to his brother. Oops!
In a duct-taped attempt at tying the theme back into the film, Costi goes to the jewelry store and buys a ton of random trinkets to then give them to a group of children at the local park. The end.
The entire film came off amateurish, like a first time writer and director got together for a school project. And if this was actually the case most could be forgiven. Given the fact that The Treasure is the work of a veteran director with a number of critics choice awards (Romania) makes the fact that this was such a disappointment even worse.
If The Treasure ever does find its way back on to our shores don’t watch it.
Overall The Treasure gets 1/10